Thursday, August 16, 2012

Searching for skills

Searching for the 21st Century geographical skills

In many of the Spatialworlds posting we have talked about the concepts in the Australian Curriculum: Geography and their importance in developing geographical thinking. In this posting I want to explore the generic skills involved in the teaching and learning of geography in the 21st Century.  

The Australian Curriculum: History clearly articulated the generic skills of history and embedded them in a developmental manner very effectively in their F-10 historical skills strand. The historical skills identified in the ACARA document are continuity and change, cause and effect, significance, perspectives, empathy and contestability. 

The challenge for geography is to identify a list of generic skills that goes to the core of geographical education. When anyone asks a geography teacher; “What skills do you want your students to develop”, we should be able to articulate those skills clearly and coherently. We are very good at saying we want our students to understand maps, undertake inquiry, draw graphs, do cross-sections etc but geographical skills are much much more in the 21st Century world of geography. This posting is not intended to develop a comprehensive and finite list. Rather, it intends to be a useful starting point for teachers to begin to think about the generic geographical skills to be developed in the teaching of geography.  I would also hope that it will provide an opportunity to debate what we are actually trying to develop in our students in terms of skills for citizenship and living.  I would suggest that in geography these skills, as is the case with the concepts, make geography geography
Here is a go at making a generic geography skills list!

  • Conceptualisation: to discuss geographical events, phenomena and places using the geographical concepts of place, space, environment, interconnection, sustainability, change and scale.
  • Comparability: to compare and contrast geographical places, processes, features, events and spatial arrangements.
  • Cause and effect: to identify causation and impact of geographical processes, spatial variations and events.
  • Contestability: to discern that there are multiple explanations for geographical phenomena and be prepared to discuss multiple causes, interpretations and futures.
  • Empathy: to be empathetic to the impact of geography on humans and have an understanding of a variety of views and impressions.
  • Futures: to be able to project forward and suggest possible futures for whatever geography studied.
  • Graphicacy: to evaluate and use data in the form of maps, graphs or other visual representations of the earth.
  • Questioning: to ask the inquiry questions of what, where, why and so what?
  • Source/data critiquing: the ability to collect, interrogate and analyse data and visual representations (maps, visualisations, images). 
  • Whyabouts: to explore the ‘why of the where’ when investigating the reasons for the location of geographical features, places and spaces.

Hopefully this list and interpretations of the skills will start some discussion of generic geographical skills. They are certainly going to be part of professional learning for geography I hope to conduct in the future. I should emphasise that this listing is just me thinking out aloud and not any official work of ACARA as they develop the Australian Curriculum: Geography.

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